When I’m asked to interview new candidates for a physical education teaching position there are two things that I look for before getting to the meat of the curriculum: first, passion and compassion in their heart, and secondly, energy in their soul. Today’s teachers need to understand that whether they teach in an urban, suburban, or rural setting, and regardless of the student’s socioeconomic status or their demographic background, all students need to be treated equally and with the expectation that all students can, and will, succeed. When a candidate can show me those qualities, they pique my interest.
Today’s beginning teachers, in any field, must possess skill sets independent of their ability to deliver the curriculum. With educational budgets barely supporting subjects engaged in the standardized testing process, new teachers now need to know how to fund their programs and must show that they are willing to do so—whether through writing mini grants, establishing community partnerships, securing sponsorships, or implementing creative fundraising. This is essential to building and expanding quality physical education programs.
The second skill set necessary is the ability to market the program. An applicant must understand that advocacy is a huge part of securing parental and community support. We can no longer be the best kept secret when incredible things are happening in physical education. Teachers need to be proud of their accomplishments and those of their students. And third, the applicant needs to be technology savvy. They need business technology, such as Word and Excel; management technology, such as the use of Gradebooks; instructional technology, such as the use of apps and instructional programs; social media, such as Twitter, Facebook; and mobile devices, such as tablets, wearables for fitness and assessment to name a few. I look for the recent college graduate to teach me something new every time I interview!
It should be a given that every candidate holds at least the minimum knowledge of the state and SHAPE America's National Standards & Grade-Level Outcomes for K-12 Physical Education, but I don’t take that for granted. I do ask the standard type of questions such as what they consider to be the components of a quality physical education program; how would they implement a developmentally appropriate curriculum; what is their plan for inclusion, their comfort level in working with students with disabilities; how would they assess students; and what is their philosophy on physical activity throughout the school’s environment, including before, during or after school.
New teachers also need to explain their classroom management system and plans for addressing off-task behaviors. And lastly, new teachers need to know that they can no longer work in a silo within the school setting. They have to get to know the rest of the school staff and become a part of the vision and mission of the school. Once they do that, they get more buy-in from the rest of the staff and the physical education program becomes embedded in the school culture.
The Last Question
I usually end all interviews by asking one question, “Will you teach for 30 years or will you teach one year 30 times?” I look for that innovative teacher who can evolve with new ideas, new programs, and keep moving the program forward. The expectation is also that the physical education teacher will be a role model for the students, dressing professionally, as well as living a healthy and active lifestyle. The teacher further sets the tone of good behavior by showing respect for all students, displaying sportsmanship, and engaging all students in all activities.
I end the interview by telling prospective teachers that every day that they come to work they are building their own legacy. Be the teacher that you want your students to remember 30 years from now, so when they are asked who their favorite teacher in school was, they will proudly respond: “It was my physical education teacher!”